The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues financial penalties for violations of its safety regulations. According to OSHA's field operations manual, the penalties are designed to encourage all employers to prevent and correct hazards immediately. It says that Congress intended penalty amounts to be "sufficient to serve as an effective deterrent to violations."
The maximum penalties for violations include:
- Other-than-serious violations: The maximum penalty is $7,000. These are violations that would not cause death or serious harm.
- Serious violations: The mandatory penalty is $7,000. These violations could cause death or serious physical harm. If convicted of a willful violation that results in death, the recipient could face a criminal conviction, up to $250,000 per individual and $500,000 per corporation as well as jail time.
- Failure to abate a violation: The maximum penalty is $7,000 per day after the abatement period ends.
- Willful or repeated violations: The maximum penalty is $70,000 for each violation after the abatement period ends.
Violations that result in worker deaths could lead to far more serious consequences. According to OSHA, a willful violation that results in a death could result in a fine of up to $10,000 and six months' incarceration for a first conviction. For a second or subsequent conviction, the maximum penalty could be a fine of up to $20,000 and a year incarceration.
The penalty for an individual violation will vary depending on the circumstances of the case.
For some businesses, some of the maximum fines may not seem high enough to be a deterrent. The fines, however, are only part of the potential consequences of an OSHA violation. OSHA requires employers to fix or abate the hazards that resulted in violations. In some cases, the abatement may be a simple fix. In others, the cost of abatement proposed by OSHA can far exceed the fines, and in some cases could threaten the future of the business. In addition, the level of the penalty can affect the business in the future.
An experienced OSHA attorney can help you deal with the impact of an OSHA violation in an effective and efficient manner. For more information, see our page on OSHA violations.